The Outcome Doesn’t Matter

Annie Duke’s book Thinking in Bets was transformative for me. I was one of those many people who see the outcome of decisions and let that define the entire experience. Annie taught me to evaluate the decisions that led to the outcome, not the outcome itself.

Ultimately, good decisions are only more likely to have good outcomes. They are not guaranteed. Similarly, bad decisions are less likely to end in good outcomes. But they still can. If I jump out of an airplane with no parachute (to use a fairly absurd illustration) and somehow survive, would you think that it was a good decision to jump without a parachute?

Let’s make it a bit more real. You meet a girl in highschool, fall in love, get married at age 19, and have a lifetime of marital bliss. Does your successful marriage mean that it was a great idea to get married to the first girl you dated when you were still a teenager? Hell, I bet you didn’t even have a pre-nup. I would argue that you made a bad decision that resulted in a good outcome – good for you, but I wouldn’t have bet on it.

And there you have the title of the book – every decision you make is actually betting on one outcome or the other. How certain were you about the bets (decisions) you made today? Did you really have enough information to make those bets accurately? Thinking this way has really opened my mind to uncertainty being one of the fundamental rules of life.

Thanks, Annie!